Mountains and Molehills
This has been a hard one to pin down. And I’m still not sure my head is wrapped around it the right way. It is about too many things…
It is about my unreliable capability; the things I can do in such exhaustive detail but then forget about the groceries in the car.
It is about my grandfather; the son he disinherited and the daughter he did not. A choice that broke apart our family, made strangers of cousins. The answers we’ll never have and questions that won’t go away. The distance between people that swells and shrinks in the most awesome and tragic of ways.
It is about our relative anguish.
It is about my children, a pile of arms and legs, asleep in our bed after a day at the beach. Pink and sandy, overtaken by that particular kind of body to bone tiredness.
It is about swimming lessons and this feeling that we exist at the deep end of everything; day in and day out, holding our breath and coming up for air again and again, the joy and the mystery of those eerie underwater sounds as we bounce back to the safety and certainty of the surface.
But mainly, mostly, it is about parenting, from the bottom up, and what I wish I would have known about having more than one child.
There was doubt going into it: that you might not be able to love the others as much as the first. But that instantly eased at your introduction, those tiny features and fingers, the cries and the stillness, the routine beginning again. There was more than enough, there was plenty.
Until it presents itself: the one who sleeps soundly and the one who frets and twists. The one who eats everything and one who only eats bananas. The one who is cautious and the one who might, at any unsupervised moment, leap off the roof.
This is the best way I know to articulate it: the love itself, the emotion, is the same, but the amount you have to dispense, your endless reservoir, is tapped in different ways by each of them, and while the feelings are identical, you might have to give more or do more for one than the others and it can’t be predicted or helped or avoided. A morning that began simply comes to startling halt: an ultrasound or a checklist or a teacher or a specialist or your gut: something or someone tells you to sit down. It could be any assembly of strange and foreign words but this is what it means: one of them is going to need you noticeably more.
And with every response to that need comes the fear that you could lose one in pursuit of the other. Because you can’t, no one could, be wholly there for more than one person at a time.
Their needs become so strikingly different, so far from satisfaction by one stone. Some; desperate and deep. Expensive. Hours of therapy and time to be alone. Urgent reminders. Your shoes are on the wrong feet. Look at me, we have to go and your shoes; they are on the wrong feet. Tears. Others are superficial, precious, ridiculous. Cereal on a plate with a fork please and to be carried. Plastic necklaces and warmed juice. A book about cars, read a million times.
But if you put them on a scale they would weigh the same, I know. I can see it in their eyes whenever someone else takes precedence.
How can you balance the unbalanceable?
It is a process of shifting and repurposing. Just as we took apart the crib to reassemble it in another room, just as we painted the walls a soft pastel and hung something dear and meaningful above the rocking chair; we made room, we created their spaces, and each in its own way must be kept.
The puzzle of their needs, stacked and ordered by what seems the most important- best guesses because I don’t know the future. These decisions I wrestle with, terrifically heavy, bolstered by my sincere hope for the ideal outcome, but really I have no clue what I am doing.
It is entirely haphazard.
They are hungry, and they each want something different: graham crackers with honey, a bowl of salted popcorn, and two fat slices of cheese on a paper towel. Their needs will always be diverse and endearingly inconvenient, but as long as they sit together at our table and climb on top of each other on the sofa, as long as they race in and out of each other’s rooms, laughing and screaming, as long as they play and fight and speak and share, my best guess is that they already know someone needs more, and they accept it. No one is lost.
What I wish I would have known about having more than one child is that they are needed by each other as much as they need me, and that they understand this in profound and selfless ways.
This great disparity we perceive and fear is just another lesson in taking turns. A molehill.